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On the eve of 4/20, the Walnut Creek City Council gave the city’s recreational cannabis users something to celebrate by unanimously voting to legalize delivery of adult-use, non-medical marijuana within city limits.

But there are caveats.

At Tuesday’s meeting — at which a cannabis proponent offered sample joints to the council, to laughter all around — the council capped the number of delivery services that can operate in the city to three. They expect one service to be HerbNJoy, the city’s lone provider of medical marijuana.

On future applications from other prospective cannabis retailers, the city will use a points system to help decide whether to grant use permits. Since HerbNJoy has been a positive contributor to the city’s business community, the council approved an amendment directing staff to process HerbNJoy’s new amended application for non-medical delivery service, giving them already-earned points.

Deliveries will have to be made to a fixed residential address, drivers won’t be able to exceed the state limit of how much product they can carry ($5,000 worth) and must deliver straight to customers without stopping anywhere else.

No decision on storefront sales

The council also decided to push back any decisions regarding storefront sales of cannabis until at least next year.

In 2018, Walnut Creek adopted its own regulations for “personal and commercial cannabis activities.”

City officials said not enough was known about potential impacts to the community if wider use was allowed, and they were also concerned about additional crime and that residents did not want more of a visible presence of cannabis in the city.

A light moment ensues during the Walnut Creek City Council meeting as Contra Costa NORML founder Arya Campbell offers a joint to Assistant City Clerk Amy Heavener during a public hearing on the city’s cannabis distribution rules. (Image courtesy of city of Walnut Creek/YouTube)

The city reassessed its ordinance in 2021 and looked at the impact on 28 other local jurisdictions allowing some form of cannabis sales.

In California, medical cannabis was legalized in 1996 and non-medical use for people 21 and over was legalized in 2016.

A 2021 staff report said 70 percent of cannabis use is recreational and taxable, with the rest being medicinal (which isn’t taxable). Moving away from prescription-only use will increase taxable sales, the report says, and “existing retail stores in Martinez and Antioch are doing extremely well, and in the next eight to 12 months, one new store will open in Pacheco and four to five new retail stores will open in Concord. There is an estimated demand for approximately 10 to 12 more retail stores in Contra Costa County.”

With recreational sales legal in Walnut Creek, the city will collect revenue not only through sales tax, but through business licensing and permit fees.

A recording of Tuesday’s council meeting can be viewed on YouYube.